"The Nation's Leading Bi-Regional Knitting Blog" --Ann's husband • "Kay sure is wasting a lot of time on this" --Kay's husband

October 31, 2006

Socks (And Choos)

Dear Kay,

In honor of the sock madness that is Socktoberfest (go give Lolly a whack on the back for keeping this thing going for an entire month), looky at what I found at last week's Tailgate Antiques Show.

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My finest hour as a Tailgate patron. A pair of handknit cotton stockings. $48. Which, I grant you, is a lot for a pair of socks, but good heavens, come take a look at these. I'm telling you the price because I look at these stockings and imagine who made them, when they were made, and how long it surely took that person. Chew on that for a minute.

These are worked at 13 stitches to the inch--that's one inch with 13 stitches in it, y'all. I read about this sort of madness in Nancy Bush's most excellent Knitting Vintage Socks, but I never thought I'd see it in person.

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This is the legendary Pointed Toe (p. 21 in Nancy's book), which creates an insanely beautiful serpentine spiral around the toe.

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The "unusual" German heel (p. 17).

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The lace pattern reminds me of the Birch shawl.

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There are tiny, almost invisible mendings on the bottom. The lady who sold these to me said they were incredibly dirty when she bought them. Her washing made them completely fresh.

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I can't believe they fit me. I won't ever wear them, of course, but it is amazing that there was a woman, back when, with a size 10 foot who was willing to create a confection like this. What was the wedding like?

Midlife Crisis Expressed through Shoes

Speaking of size 10 feet . . . sorry for the dillydallying.

Here's what I'm dealing with:

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Shoes of Laura, Junior Varsity Heels

And these:

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Shoes of Laura, All-Pro Heels

Laura actually gave me TWO pairs of girl shoes. (I can't believe she would part with these, under any circumstance.)

I've been wearing the Shoes of Laura around the house, trying to figure out the best means of locomotion when wearing such footwear.

My training involved such tasks as a) walking to my closet; b) standing; and c) sitting. I sought advice from expert heel wearers and was advised that a person doesn't "walk" in shoes like these, she "strolls." She "works" "it." She "takes her time." This all sounded promising to me--I mean, maybe if I didn't rush around so much, people would have more time to see me and my footwear, which in turn might make me spend more than three minutes a week on grooming, which in turn might be sort of fun to be someone who is groomed. Can ya imagine what THAT would be like?

Anyway, on Saturday Hubbo had put in yeoman's duty in the fathering department, I was kind of trashed myself, and we realized (as usually happens when you don't plan ahead), that there was no prospect of a Date. We haven't had a Date in about six years. Chronic failure to plan ahead. In a weak, desperate moment, I called Daddyo and his bride Ann. Without a blink they took the fellas, who were ready for some grandfatherly poker action. Wow. Pushing our luck, I called the restaurant in town that has ridiculous food on the menu, and zipzap they had a table. It was at this point that I thought, I'm going to wear the Shoes of Laura.

I went with Junior Varsity Heels, because the All-Pro Heels are just flat scary. You don't become a pro overnight, you know.

Off we went, improbably free as a pair of hooky-playing birds, me clutching Hubbo's elbow as we made our way to the restaurant. Hey, I thought. This is the TICKET. I was almost as tall as Hubbo. Of course, I couldn't CATCH Hubbo if he took off running, and the possibility of catching a heel on a crack added plenty of drama. All the way through dinner, I kept wiggling my toes. Even though nobody could see them, those shoes were down there transforming me from a Barely on a Date Mom to Date Woman.

We made it home without a single wipeout. Verdict on the Junior Varsity Heels: brilliant.

My conclusion: I've always had a semi-feminist dislike of high heels. Men don't wear high heels, you know. Why should we? Shouldn't a woman be able to run for her life if she needs to? What's with all this cobbling of women? Whose idea was this, anyway?

Ah, lighten up. Shoes like these are a great little midlife crisis. You can have a fling, but you won't hate yourself in the morning.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 11:42 AM | Comments (94)

October 26, 2006

Cleanup on Aisle 2, a Trip, and Some Shoes

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Dear Kay,

It's 2:30 in the morning. Small Clif--poignant, brave, wildly barf covered--turned up at my bedside with trash can in hand to announce that he was having a bad night.

I am so very awake. Never been so awake. Let's just leave that vale of Clorox behind for the moment, shall we? We're going on a little trip.

Is that potpourri I smell? Like, six kinds of potpourri at the same time? Is that the sound of a taxidermied wildcat falling off a table? Why, it must be time for

The Tailgate Antiques Show!

There's nothing like a brisk October morning when you get the semi-annual chance to haul it up Briley Parkway with your most eagle-eyed Tailgate pal in search of . . . um . . . stuff.

Mystic Crystal Revelation

We didn't spy any arbiters of taste this time--Mary Emmerling is usually around, wearing her cowboy boots, a warehouse of turquoise, and three or four blankets. But that was OK--we were bedazzled by all the becolor.

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If I were into tatting, well. All you tatters, getcher boots on--this is a lifetime supply.

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The vendor was rassling two stuck buckets when we walked by. The stuckest buckets you ever saw.

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Greeeeeen.

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The backside of Fair Isle is what comes to mind whenever I see a batch of these jacquard bedcover things.

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Compulsory miter moment.

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A faded rag rug is always divine. There was a 21-foot-long vintage rag rug for sale, unused, for less than it would cost at Pottery Barn. Somebody please go get that thing--room 130.

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Makes me think of that Loretta Lynn song, "I Miss Being Mrs. Tonight." You know, "I took off my wedding band/And put it on my right hand/Oh! I miss being Mrs. tonight." [Pause to contemplate the greatness of Loretta Lynn, especially when Jack White is producing her.]

On to the Other Category of Things

You didn't think I was going to leave you with a bunch of pastel-colored inspiration, did you? Here's the real Tailgate.

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There's a fine line between clever and stupid, as they say in Spinal Tap. Can you put a finger on the exact place where arcane becomes junk? Here! This box of busted watches is where!

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What in the world is this $95 framed piece of stuff? To my eye this looked like sailing canvas. Like, from the H.M.S. Surprise? The Mayflower? Your neighbor Bob who takes his sailboat out on Old Hickory Lake?

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I've always wondered what Ma and Pa Ingalls spent on that cabin of theirs. I've always wanted a log cabin--let's do the math. $1,500 per window. Ma and Pa Ingalls had three windows in their log cabin: $4,500. If a window is $1,500, then a log surely has to be, like, more than a window because it's bigger, right? So, $2,000 the log, call it 60 logs for a dogtrot because I am NOT sleeping with those two boys every single night even if those pioneers did it and ended up with six children. That's $120,000, plus a door which has to be $6,000. That's $130,500 for a two-room log cabin. No wonder Pa kept moving--he couldn't keep up the payments.

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Take a look at this rag ball.

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Eagle Eye provides her hand for scale. Forget the Eight Pound Ball of Yarn. This thing weighs about forty pounds, and the seller said she had to roll it down Main Street to get it to her van.

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A word about rag ball economics: There is absolutely no rhyme nor reason to the pricing of rag balls. These balls were $22 to $48 apiece. I think Betsy Ross breathed on them or something. Six doors down, I bought a boatload of balls for five bucks each, $2.50 for the small ones. If you're looking for rag balls for knitting projects, just keep looking.

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I've never seen mixed media taxidermy before, so this is breaking new ground. I'm seeing deer fur, dog face, and stripe of skunk on top of a form that surely must be a wig stand.

And finally, here are the shoes of the day:

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No, they're not the shoes I was wearing yesterday, but aren't these just divine? If I were a size five, I'd be clonking around in these.

Well, it's been a while since our little Profile in Courage has erupted, so I think we're in the clear now and I'm getting sleepy. I have to say, I'm having that same feeling that I had back in the days of constant nursing. I'd be up at four in the morning, reading three-day-old Tennessean classified dog ads, trying to decide whether, if I were ever going to get a dog, would I want the AKC Welsh Corgi or the Basset Hound mix. I'd decide--firmly--that a Corgi was the way to go, sort of the same way I'm sitting here right now certain that when dawn breaks, I'm heading back up Briley Parkway for that big ass rag ball.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 04:30 AM | Comments (59)

October 25, 2006

In Great Taste: A Kitchen (Drawer) Tour

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Dear Ann,

Honey, what's got INTO you? Way to stir it up! My favorite comment (so far) to yesterday's post is from Becky H, who joins the chorus of people (me included) chanting 'Show us your shoes! Show us your shoes!' but adds "you can keep your top on if you want to".

If you must, remain clothed. But do not deny shoes to this crowd.

And if this reporter person comes after you, you know I've got your back. Like a mama bear, I'll rise to your defense and present your impeccable credentials as a Non Competitive Laissez-Faire Mom. I'll tell her how free you are with the Pop Tarts, how you've wavered on the whole issue of trans fats, and how you INSIST on wearing that old shirt that doesn't do a thing for you. The Mom jeans? Don't get me started. She'll be begging you for a play date.

What about me? I've spent some time with the sewing machine, trying to get some skillz. What I love about sewing is that you can make stuff that is actually useful. There is so much I don't know about sewing that each project, no matter how small, presents a ton of new learning. Look what I made:

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A wee pot holder from Amy Butler's fab new book. Cristina has said that the instructions in this book are wonderfully detailed and useful, and they are. You can FEEL your sewing skills improving. All is linear and logical. And Amy Butler's fabric choices and styling of the projects are joyous and inspiring. What's not to like?

This potholder has lots of Features. One feature is a grommet, which is perhaps the coolest feature of all. As soon as I can get me some grommets, I will definitely be installing one. I even like saying 'grommet'. Grommet grommet.

Another cool feature:

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Quilted hand protectors on the back. Which, even if you are not the kind of person who protects the back of the hands when pulling a hot dish out of the oven, makes the potholder extra squishy and protective of the working side of your hand.

What I learned:

1. How to do machine-quilted diamonds that look rilly almost PROFESSIONAL. So straight the lines! I heart painter's tape!
2. How to make bias edging. Double-folded, even! (Question: Is bias edging worth the trouble? Should bias edging have mitered corners or is that just showing off?)

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3. That a new potholder can really make the drawer look happy.

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4. That I really needed new potholders.

Sewing is much quicker, gratification-wise, than knitting. Just saying.

Don't answer the door for the next couple of days. If you get any calls from grouchy reporters, sorority sisters, or disappointed Kitchen Tourists, send them to me.

Love, Kay


Posted by Kay at 09:26 AM | Comments (44)

October 24, 2006

Cinderella in Mom Jeans (And Miscellaneous Topics)

Dear Kay,

So this morning I'm sitting in the kitchen having a cup of coffee with my friend Laura, and all of a sudden we look up to find two really well-dressed women standing in the front hall. "Is this . . . are you . . . on the tour?" one asks. She is so kind to suggest that the house actually could be on a tour, any tour, what with the shoes on the floor, the crumbling salt clay volcano on the table, the three piles of creepy knitting in the living room.

The women have wandered into my house because this sign has showed up in my front yard this morning:

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This morning there is a fundraiser, a kitchen tour that's filled the neighborhood with tweedy, pump-wearin' kitchen tourists. I had volunteered my yard as a parking lot of great taste. Who knew they'd identify it so clearly?

As we contemplate each other, I'm standing there in my (new) (and possibly less Mom jeansish) blue jeans, the T shirt which you told me was "not doing a thing for you" when you saw it back in June, and a gray cardigan which is semi-felted by accident. I am, however, wearing a brand-stinkin'-new pair of three-inch-high pumps, because as the women arrived, Laura was offloading some excess footwear in my direction, and I was gleefully accepting it.

I've never had a pair of shoes like this in my life. They are the fanciest, least practical shoes I have ever had on my feet. Let me tell you, if you're feeling like your house isn't up to snuff, if you're feeling like your new blue jeans are still kind of Mom jeansish--when you put on a pair of heels, you just don't care anymore. Wearing that pair of shoes, I'm ready to lead those women into my kitchen to give them the tour of their lives. Six feet tall and strolling.

OK, so a slow wobble is pretty much all I can muster, given the incredible altitude and tottery danger of those shoes. We assure the two women that no, you don't really want to see the kitchen back there. So the two women depart with a laugh, relieved that they can move on without having to say anything sweet about the guinea pig cage in the middle of the den.

I'm still wearing the shoes. And I may keep 'em on 'til midnight.

In Other News

Three topics on my mind right now:

Topic Number 1: Mothers as an Unintentional Sorority

Topic Number 2: Blogging as Virtual Playgroup

Topic Number 3: Actual Sorority Life

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(Here is a picture of some knitting, for those of you who aren't into these three topics and are jonesing for a view of Perfect Sweater Number 3: The One that Is Made in My Size Now That We Have a Full Pattern. It is Cascade 220 in shade #9459 which can only be described as mossy dirty goodness.)

Topic Number 1: Mothers as Unintentional Sorority

So there's been a bit of a kerfuffle in Nashville recently because a group of moms were cast in a fairly unkind light by Lindsay Ferrier, who writes a column called "Suburban Turmoil" in the Nashville Scene, the alternative weekly here.

Here's the column. (It's not too long.) (The gist of it is that Lindsay goes to a kids' playgroup with women she doesn't know, and she ends up feeling awful because they're snarky to her, and they stir up all her insecurities about her mom skills.) Here's the column she wrote the following week. (Gist: Lindsay publishes all the snarky comments the aforementioned MOMS Club members left on Lindsay's personal blog after the column ran. My favorite: "Your writing is so '90s." Spanked!)

I don't know any of these people. But I do know what it is have my insecurities about my mom skills stirred up. It happens to me pretty much every day. Most moms I talk to confess the same thing: there's always somebody who makes you feel like you're doing it wrong.

I keep thinking about this situation. It seems to me that Lindsay attended the Green Hills MOMS Club for little reason except as fodder for her column. If she were really interested in the playgroup as a way to meet other moms, she would have gone, had a good or a bad time, and moved on.

Attending a playgroup in bad faith is like--well, it's just cruising for a bruising. And it looks like Lindsay got a can of whupass opened on her, and she is dishing it back thanks to her access to ink and bandwidth. Of course, I now feel like I've participated in all this by reading it all, and by writing about it myself. But I keep thinking about why mothers can be so very snarky to each other. Why do we constantly do this?

Topic Number 2: Blogging as Virtual Playgroup

Part of Lindsay's troubles came because she keeps a blog which at times functions as a Talmudic side commentary going on the topics she covers in her Scene column. She heard from a bunch of moms because they had a place where they could easily leave her a comment. Anyone who has kept a blog, read a blog, or can spell the word blog has seen the way a comment can ignite a firestorm. I could list five choice blowouts off the top of my head. It's kind of embarrassing and awful when it happens. If our kids said the kinds of things to each other that people in the blogosphere let fly, wouldn't we be appalled and instantly deposit a big pile of Golden Rule on them?

Topic Number 3: Actual Sorority Life

Finally, and I'm sorry even to go here, but (warning: semi-nekkid bosoms ahead) this photo is just driving me crazy. Here's the story behind it. If anybody needs proof that the Greek system operates under peer pressure . . . oy! How often have you had the urge to wave yer pasties with forty other women?

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 04:15 PM | Comments (60)

October 18, 2006

No Handknits Were Bleached in the Production of This Post

Dear Ann,

I've decided to come out of the corner where I've been licking my wounds about the AHEM mixed reception of my artistic efforts with the bleachy Q-tip. Life is worth living. I will live to bleach another day.

Back when October 2006 was young, I needed an appropriate project to see me through the Yankees' repetitive winning of playoff games. Or at least I thought I needed a project for such a purpose. Throwing Hubby a bone, I went with him to the next-to-last regular-season game in Yankee Stadium. Since the Yanks had long since clinched, and were hosting the non-postseasonal Toronto Bluejays, I felt the crowd was going to be mellow enough to withstand some live-action knitting. This late in a winning season, the seats tend to be filled with friends and relatives of serious baseball fans. (I.e., people like me. People who enjoy having a beer and some snacks, outdoors, while something sporty is going on, vaguely, out there beyond the knitting.)

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Thus began the Storm Water Scarf, a pattern designed by Ciobar Fibre Designs, for HandMaiden's beautiful Sea Silk yarn (70% silk, 30% "Seacell"--which is cellulose fiber from seaweed). I was very excited to be knitting with Bamboo of the Sea. "When [Sea Silk is] worn, your skin’s natural moisture will release magnesium, calcium and vitamin E contained within the seaweed. It has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to protect the skin." Sign me up!

Alas.

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If only the Yankees' post season had lasted as long as 100g of Sea Silk.

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If the stitch pattern looks familiar, I think it's because it's the same one used in the Midwest Moonlight scarf in Scarf Style. It's fun to knit while being companionable to someone watching sports, and when you are done you know absolutely that a Slip, Slip, Knit leans to the left and a K2Tog leans to the right. This principle is burnt into your very soul.

I love the subtle striations of color and the delicious smooth drape of this yarn. Every skein is visually stunning, and it behaves beautifully on the needles, no splitting whatsoever. But when I quick-blocked it with the steam iron, I suddenly realized why it's called Sea Silk. L'air du poisson, if you know what I mean, or maybe just a whiff of anti-inflammatory properties. As soon as it's dry, the scent is gone.

In Other Scarfy News

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As long as I was hanging knitting in the yard, I snapped some shots of this beauty. Silk yarn, hand-dyed by Cristina in something called cutch. (Hope I remember that right.) [Edited to add: Cristina also did the knitting; this scarf was a surprise that arrived in warm weather and had to wait all this time to be paraded around town with my jean jacket. I claim no credit for any of its charms.]

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This photo shows the beads and the color most accurately. I've decided to never knit with beads myself because I don't want to dispel the mystery. Now that cool weather is here, this little triangle is a favorite accessory. The muggles may not appreciate the lovely knitting or the suave drape of the fiber, and they certainly know nothing of the cutch, but they LOVE the beads. What's not to love about the beads?

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Which reminds me, Hubby and I are heading out for a long weekend to mark our 15th anniversary. Where does the time go?

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Here's one place it goes. This week Joseph aka 'the baby' turned 8.

Love, Kay


Posted by Kay at 02:01 PM | Comments (59)

October 17, 2006

How to Have a Great Weekend Despite a Relative Lack of Erotica

Dear Kay,

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Ohhh, Memphis. What a town. Every time I looked up, I'd see the top of this bridge--a reminder that right over there is the mighty Mississippi River. People all the time compare and contrast Nashville and Memphis for one reason or another, but in my book, if you've got the Mississippi River rolling by, you win.

When I told one of my civilian friends (a non-knitter, bless her heart) that I was going to Memphis all by myself for the Southern Festival of Books, she said, "Oh." Pause. "Isn't that kind of . . . lonely?"

I said, "Ohhh, it'll be OK."

She doesn't really understand the universal binding ingredient that is knitting. Knitting is to humans as mayonnaise is to cubed chicken.

If you're a knitter, you can KNIT WITH OTHER KNITTERS. You can TALK ABOUT KNITTING WITH OTHER KNITTERS. You can show them pictures of knitting, wave around actual pieces of knitting--you can wallow in the glorious lifestyley lifestyle that is knitting. This hobby, this little pastime, gives you an excuse to open yourself up to new people--something that might otherwise be a dicey proposition when you're, say, wandering around Memphis.

Consider a few of the knitters I met.

Adrienne Martini

We'd swapped emails, and having begun reading her book Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood, I knew she would be funny and smart. I did not know, however, that she would bring along glow-in-the-dark yarn. We made a blood pact that we would each attend the other's session, thus ensuring an audience of at least one.

Adrienne's memoir is about her experience with postpartum depression after the birth of her first baby. I finished the book while in Memphis, and I have to tell you, it is honest, unsparing, and a gift to anyone who's ever worried that their baby blues might be something more complicated. Writing a book in which you lay out the road map of your mind, when you're in a tangle, is brave stuff. I was pretty awestruck that she would tell her story, and tell it so truthfully. And to emerge from her experience with her sense of humor intact . . . fab.

Karen Purdy and Most of Her Family

Karen was the person responsible for inviting me to the festival. She is a family practice physician in midtown Memphis, which means half the people we ran into during the weekend were patients of hers. I began to wonder if I was a patient too, only she wasn't telling me.

Or maybe I was an honorary Purdy. Her ma Barbara was up from Pascagoula, along with Barbara's husband Harry and Karen's sister Kris, the brilliant and well-shod chemistry teacher. By the end of the weekend I had the entire family history down. If I put a K at the front of my name, I think I'd be in.

Among the many gifts Karen gave me were several rides around town in her sweet set of wheels, light-up knitting needles (which really ought to be used with Adrienne's glow-in-the-dark yarn, you know?), and juicy details about all the authors.

The Memphis Knitting Guild

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What a group! Stephanie said these women were a hoot, and she wasn't kidding. (Adrienne at the far right is an honorary member, and Karen, third from the right in the back, is behind on her dues so they kicked her out. OK not really.)

I'm pretty sure that Mason-Dixon Knitting is the first knitting book ever featured at the Southern Festival of Books. We had a fine time, especially considering that the competing session next door featured a book called A Deeper Shade of Sex: The Best in Black Erotic Writing.

After my talk, we wandered down Main Street which is filled with untold stories (do Murray and Jerry hate each other's guts?), a wedding taking place in a little park, and a friendly guy sitting on a bench waiting to pay everybody just the nicest compliments.

We ended up at Slopout Louie's or Sleepover Larry's or Slipover Lenny's, a very fine bar. Our long-suffering waiter

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(that's a kerchief he's knitting for his friend who's walking in the Atlanta Breast Cancer walk--oh wait maybe that wasn't his project?) quickly let us sit outside in the beautiful afternoon which was great and meant that the twenty knitters would not interrupt the Mississippi-Alabama football game being watched with good-God-do-not-interrupt-those-guys fervor. Which brings me to:

Maria and Mary Heather

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What a pair! These youngsters came up from Oxford, Missisippi, for an afternoon of yarnish behavior, and they totally cracked me up. Maria kept running inside to see how Ole Miss was doing, and Mary Heather kept a running commentary on Maria. I learned that Mary Heather takes the photos for Maria's blog because Maria won't or can't take pictures; they're both biologists; and they will ditch children and boyfriends if there's knitting to be done.

We did the things that knitters do: we sipped, supped, dropped a few stitches, and talked the afternoon away. It was all anybody could ever want, unless, of course, a person was really into black erotica in which case it wasn't so great.

Wish you had been there. I have a few noveltyies for you, but the light-up knitting needles? Don't hold your breath.

And, tragically, I must report that Ole Miss came up short in overtime. Moment of silence, please. It was the only hiccup in an otherwise poifect weekend.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 01:49 PM | Comments (27)

October 15, 2006

Now: Even Raspier!

Dear Ann,

What is wrong with me? I can't seem to come into possession of a knitted-up piece of denim yarn--swatch or sweater--without experiencing OCD-W (Obsessive Compulsive Denim-Washing). No sooner had I modelled Raspy in public and worn it a few times, than it started to look a bit too crispy and new. It needed mellowing. It needed several trips through the washer and dryer with as much other stuff as I could cram in (for friction, you know--to sand down the new denim blue).

But what it really needed--or I needed--was BLEACH.

Yes. Bleach. What is this mad urge to take irresponsible risks with precious handknits that have taken hours--days--weeks--months-- to finish? But once the word 'bleach' has entered my mind, I am powerless to resist. No bleach pen? No problem. A Q-tip and a jar lid with a half-inch of bleach, and I've got my brand-new sweater stuffed with the New York Post and I'm daubing away. Heedless of the danger to a perfectly okay sweater.

Here goes:

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The voice in my head (Mad Bad Kay) was saying: "People see you in this sweater and think you don't KNOW about all those dropped-stitch 'runs' you made in it! They think you are a bad knitter! They are looking at you RIGHT NOW and thinking you don't even REALIZE that you have holes in your sweater! Now...if you just bleach those little ladders--just a TOUCH, very SUBTLE--then it will be clear that you are a GREAT KNITTER and you Did This On Purpose. Then it will be the Design Feature that Kim Hargreaves intended. By God, woman: you MUST BLEACH IT, BLEACH IT GOOD!"

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So I painted on my bleach, put it back in the washer (dumping the leftover bleach into the wash--what the hell, right?), only slightly nervous as to whether I would like the outcome. With bleach, there are no do-overs. If you don't like it, there's only overdyeing, or bleaching it ALL THE WAY, i.e, a white sweater. That would kind of defeat the purpose of the fading indigo-dyed yarn, you know?

Here's how it came out.

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For the record, I like it. I like it much better than before. It still has a raw, just-bleached look, but that will soften up with wear and washing. (Yay! More washing!)

Carrie's observation made it all worthwhile: 'You're.... Punk Mom!'

Very fitting on the last day of CBGB's. (I can't seem to face up to the facts. I'm tense and nervous--can't relax. )

Love, Kay

Posted by Kay at 11:31 PM | Comments (63)

October 12, 2006

The Perfectly Okay Sweater

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Dear Ann,

Some people aim for 'perfect'. I aimed for 'adequate', and I'm pleased and proud to say that I hit the mark.

I give you Raspy, or as I prefer to call it, Raspy My Love.

Raspy is a very adequate sweater. Raspy is not for wearing to your parties or your offices, or even to your grocery stores. Raspy is for wearing around the house, and especially over pajamas.

Remember how I had to sub some home-bleached yarn for the home-plied Texere laceweight denim?

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I don't think it shows. (Work with me here.)

If you're not familiar with Raspy (from Rowan's Denim People book), I need to tell you: Those holes?--They're on purpose. It's the style, dontcha know. (Because I'm SO FREAKING STYLISH.) (You keep forgetting that, about me being so stylish.)

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The sleeves are totally spozed to be this long. I know it looks a little big in this picture, but it doesn't feel one bit big. It feels just right. LIke a sweatshirt. Only denimy-er.

Where did I stage this embarrassing middle-aged photo shoot? At the New York Botanical Garden, in Da Bronx, where they are having an awesome exhibit, everywhere you can imagine, of Dale Chihuly's work in blown glass. It's amazing how much glass they made. They made so much that I am going to decorate the Found Objects with Blown Glass Galore. It's ChihulyPalooza 2006, people!

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Which might help distract you from our model's Figure Flaws. (Keepin' it ray-all!)

I am so excited for Rachel and her angel from Montgomery. I'm farklempt with the wild, wild love going on down there. Farklempt, I tell you!

Love,
Kay

Posted by Kay at 07:21 PM | Comments (51)

A Knitter Is Born

Dear y'all,

Rachel has had a baby! Our favorite Katrina survivor tells her tale here.

Mazel tov and blessings! Welcome, small Shelby! Everybody, please send Shelby your best knitting tips. You can't start too early with this stuff.

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 06:33 PM | Comments (2)

October 09, 2006

Yes, Virginia, There is a Perfect Sweater Pattern

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Dear Kay, and All Valiant Heroes Who Have Helped to Determine the Perfect Handknit,

I know there are a lot of you who have decided that world peace will arrive before the pattern for the Perfect Sweater.

Ah, the Future Search for the Perfect Handknit, the project from last fall which turned our blog into a regular United Nations (or supercatty episode of The View).

Well, I'm here to tell you that world peace will have to come tomorrow. The pattern for the Perfect Sweater is done.

Pretty much done. More done than not. Done enough to launch on its way to everybody who has ever wanted to make the Perfect Sweater.

First, I want to apologize to those of you who have been waiting, and inquiring in superpolite ways, and generally not being awful to me about the fact that this pattern is long overdue. I can't say I would have been so kind had I bought up a batch of Cascade 220 (The Perfect Yarn, it had been decided) only to find that the pattern was stuck somewhere in the ether. So: thank you for your patience.

Second, I'd like to thank everyone who participated in this gabfest. It has been educational and hilarious to hear everyone's opinion about what constitutes the perfect handknit. For those who would like to see how we ended up with a "perfect sweater," the whole tale is available in the archives beginning right here.

What It Is

Here's where it all stands--and this is where I send a giant THANK YOU to Mandy our tech editor, who has been a regular Florence Nightingale, nursing this thing along. I encourage you all to go give her a thank you or a pile of diamonds. Or a new brain, because surely she blew her current one on the calculations she just finished.

We have a pattern for a sweater which includes the following features:

Pullover Written for nine (count-'em nine) sizes, from a 28" bust to a 60" bust
Long sleeves
Set-in sleeves
Slightly shaped waist
Three hem/cuff options: seed stitch, hemmed with a flat edge, hemmed with a picot edge
Three neckline options: rolled jewelneck, V neck (designed by the heroic Suzanne), seed stitch

Now, there are a number of elements missing from this pattern: some neckline variations and the entire issue of the cardigan option. Our elaborate voting called for these things. Perfection is complicated, it turns out. And I have no doubt that in time we will get them all. Everybody who volunteered to cook up a neckline is still welcome to do so--of course.

Thanks to Mandy's blazing calculator and good sense, this Perfect Sweater pattern is a thing of beauty. It includes notes on such tidbits as the three-needle bindoff, a crochet provisional cast-on, and the best increases and decreases. I think this is a fantastic pattern for anyone wanting to make a sweater for the first time.

In all its numerically dense glory, here is the Perfect Sweater pattern. Free to all!

A Test Knitting

I've just finished my second Perfect Sweater, test-knitting the pattern. Let me tell you, never in my life have I had the sort of effortless success that I have had with this pattern. Rilly! It's like it's charmed or something. Check out these hot blocking photos:

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Have you ever seen a 19"-wide sweater be so very 19 inchy?

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Or a 21 1/2" side seam be so NOT 22 inches?

In fact, the only error in the whole knitting of this thing was mine--after I finished sleeve #2 last night, I ran downstairs to block this final sweater part. I laid it out, pins a-ready, and discovered that something was seriously, wonkishly wrong. Sleeve #1 (knitted back in March, I'm chagrined to report) was, like, a full inch taller than sleeve #2. SOMEbody did not follow the directions. Incredible. So I reknit the sleeve cap of sleeve #1.

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If anyone doubts the mighty redemptive power of blocking, you can see in this picture the irregular new stitches at the top, and the fluffy, steamed-like-a-clam stitches of the bottom. Really, Cascade 220 is a marvelous yarn--it loves to be knitted, and it loves to be blocked. It's, uh, perfect.

I can't wait to make another one.

Ze Future of the Perfect Sweater

As with all good collaborative projects, there will be no end to the Perfect Sweater. Necklines remain to be designed, cardigans to be figured out, top-downs, sideways. We hope people will dive in and and make the Perfect Sweater even perfecter. To that end, we have set up this Creative Commons license which gives readers a lot of liberty to copy the pattern and to create derivative versions as long as they give proper attribution. After all, everybody who participated in the Search for the Perfect Handknit has a hand in how this pattern turned out.

So: print out a bunch and give them to people for Christmas. Looking for a bar mitzvah present? What better than the Perfect Sweater?

Yarn? What About Yarn, You Ask?

You have a great chance to score Perfect Yarn at a great price.

Two fantastic yarn shops are offering discounts (and no, MDK makes nary a dime off yarn sales):

Fiber Gallery in Seattle returns with 25% off all Cascade 220 from now until December 31st. Regular prices are: Cascade 220 (includes Quatro) $7; Cascade 220 Tweed $9.50; Cascade 220 Superwash $10. No online ordering available; please call in orders to the shop to provide credit card information: (206) 706-4197.

Threaded Bliss Yarns, Nashville, is offering a once-in-a-lifetime 20% discount on Cascade 220. Beginning on Wednesday, October 11, go visit the Threaded Bliss web site for details. Over a hundred shades in stock, up to 10 skeins at the sale price. Sheila will even order a bag of 10 for you if she doesn't have your shade in stock.

And Finally . . .

I leave you with a thought. After the discussing and the voting and the retiring to the lounge when it got too loud, please remember this: the perfect sweater is the one you make the way you like it.

[Group hug]

Love,
Ann

Posted by Ann at 09:38 AM | Comments (79)

October 05, 2006

Nashville Knitting Party

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Dear Kay,

Quick reminder: Knitting at the Nashville downtown library this coming Monday, October 9, noon to 2 pm! Here's a map. Come one, come all!

LATE-BREAKING NEWS: Everbody's favorite librarian, Cheryl, has convinced Provence, the bakery located in the library, to provide a $10 gift certificate for a drawing--and everybody gets a 10% coupon. SWAG! How great is that?

Love,
Ann

PS What's the item up there being blocked? Could it be . . . the Perfect Sweater? Stay tuned.

Posted by Ann at 11:31 AM | Comments (27)

October 04, 2006

This 'N That

Dear Ann,

I know it's in the Mason-Dixon Stylebook that we can't title a post 'This 'N That', but I don't recall getting a vote on any of these stylebook rules of yours. I think 'This 'N That' is an awesome title for a post.

Life has been real this 'n thatty for me lately. Much chasing of the tail, much public transportation, much sitting around and waiting. I had a dark night of the soul in which I asked myself questions like, Why am I always a Class Mom? Is there a way to opt out of being a Class Mom? Do I have a special gift for being Class Mom? Could not a more organized person perhaps do a better job at being Class Mom than I?

I'm still in a finishing frenzy, which is nature's way of helping me cope with all the uncontrollables in life. Like the uncontrollable number of chairs in my temporary living room, and the fact that I can't remember where I put everybody's winter jacket. I can CONTROL the wobbly stack of unsewn-up projects. All it takes is a yarn needle and a dream, and the ability to navigate around a few chairs on the way to the Sewing-up Surface.

Raspy

When I was getting Raspy ready for her sew-up, I noticed that I had washed the front but I had not yet washed the back. (For my Raspy, a Kim Hargreaves design from Rowan's Denim People book, I substituted 3 strands of Texere laceweight denim yarn knitted together for Rowan's Denim which is DK weight.) People who haven't knitted with denim often fret to me in advance about the denim label, which warns that the yarn will shrink approximately 10-15% in length after washing in hot water and drying in a hot dryer. Since a picture is worth a thousand calming emails from me, I give you:

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Raspy, before and after. The piece on top has been shrunk, the piece on the bottom has not. They vary hardly at all in width (this is obscured by the curl on the edges), but 10-15 percent in length. Overall the stitches tighten up nicely and the shrinkage is a good and manageable thing. If the pattern is written for denim (like Raspy is), you just knit it for your size and don't worry. If the pattern is written for another DK weight yarn, you add 10 percent to the length by knitting extra rows in the body of the garment and the sleeves.

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What's not so good and manageable is if you run out of home-plied yarn this far from the completion of the second sleeve. I have more of the Texere cones stashed away in a remote location. But if I wait to dig it out, Raspy will be oblivioned for at least the rest of 2006. I want to wear Raspy. I have a good feeling about Raspy. Raspy has shaping. Raspy is going to fit. So...

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I substituted one Unique Yarn for another. I found a ball of Belinda's home-brew bleach-specked denim, which used the same base shade (the medium blue, or 'Memphis' in Rowan's parlance). This picture shows how it looked before washing. After washing, you can still see the difference in shading, but I DO NOT CARE I TELL YOU.

I always intended Raspy for a sweatshirt. It will hardly show. (You must never tell me that you even NOTICE it, okay?)

In ancient times, I used to work as a lawyer defending the government in civil damages cases. Needless to say, the Government got sued a lot. To keep our morale up whilst getting our clocks cleaned on a regular basis through no fault of our own, we invented a concept called the "Civ Div Win". It meant that you lost, but you lost at least a couple dollars less than you could have lost if not for all that excellent lawyering you did.

I'm calling Raspy a Civ Div Win.

Love, Kay


Posted by Kay at 04:35 PM | Comments (31)

October 02, 2006

Out of Gas--and Mail from Cat Bordhi

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Dear Kay,

Well, it turns out that 1,050 yards of Blue Heron Mercerized Cotton, Bluegrass shade, will take you three-quarters of the way around the border of one Print o' the Wave stole.

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Fifteen repeats shy of a finish. And so, this project grinds to a screeeeeeeeeeching, limping halt. Anybody out there hanging onto a skein of this stuff, please give a holler. By my calculation I need 1' per row x 16 rows per repeat = 16' x 15 repeats = 240'/3' = 80 yards.

I HATE it when that happens!

As Stephen Colbert says: Moving on.

I love this shawl, but I'm frankly glad to be taking a breather. There's another little project that has been hanging fire for too long, and I hope to finish it up this week. More in a minute.

Love,
Ann

PS But enough with the handwringing and recriminations--Cat Bordhi needs our help, people.

The woman whose book taught me how to knit socks is at it again. Her next book, due in spring 2007, is New Pathways for Sock Knitters, One. At the moment she is collecting foot measurements, and she'd like to have as many as possible. If you've always wanted to help a knitting genius, here's your chance. Here's what she needs:

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What better way to end the day than by seeing how long your feet are?

Posted by Ann at 05:23 PM | Comments (36)
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